October 20, 2017 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

It was snowing at the Pass, it was October, and I was itching to get out for an afternoon of touring.  After a morning of work attending a couple of meetings I couldn’t get out of, I left the valley around noon and headed up Highway 58 to check out the conditions.  It took me a few minutes to shovel out a space near the gate, and after a few minutes I had most of my gear ready.  I toured around for a few minutes while waiting for the rest of the crew to show up, and snapped a few shots of the base area in its fresh winter coat…

The lodge and base area

The Patrol Room

After a few minutes, Dan, Joe and John pulled up, fresh off cutting a cord of wood on the Waldo road.  They geared up quickly, and we set off to see what was up.  Skinning up KP, the snow was pretty thin — it was apparent whatever snow was on the front side had fallen earlier in the day – and the depth was around 5-6 inches.  We continued up, working our way up Eagles, and eventually towards Peak 2.

Looking up from the base

Going up Eagles

There was 16 inches at the Peak 2 snow stake when we got to the top, and we took a short break to enjoy a cold one and take off the skins before dropping in for some turns….

Looking down Northern

The top of Peak 2

With the snow coverage being what it was, we elected to ski the top of Boundary and then check out Escalator.  The snow on Boundary didn’t disappoint, and Escalator skied pretty well too, despite the thin coverage.

Heading down Escalator

Looking back up at Escalator and Northern

John and I toured back up Destiny while Dan and Joe went back up Escalator.  We each hit another lap on the runs we skinned up, then met back at the bottom.  At that point, we all agreed it was worth one more run from the top, so we headed back up to do it again.  Dan captured a few photos of me on upper Boundary enjoying my first day of October riding at the Pass….

Cruising down Boundary

Touring back out

Once we made it back to Boundary, we were starting to lose light, so we made the call to head to EPA.  A few minutes later, we were enjoying a cold one readying for the ski out the front-side on marginal conditions.  Joe snapped a photo of John, Dan and I below before we strapped in….

Hanging out at EPA

We started down KP, making turns carefully, avoiding any obvious rocks or snow covered objects.  The run skied pretty nice.  Dan and I decided to ski Eagles, while Joe and John continued down KP.  Eagles held about 6 inches of snow, and proved challenging to ski, but was fun in a crack headed sort of way.  It was nearly dark, but I snapped a few photos of Dan anyway to document the descent.  I like the noisy feel of the photo below, it reminds me of an old school shot from long ago…

Dan on Eagles

At the bottom of Eagles, we regrouped with John and Joe and continued down KP.  The run skied surprisingly well, and I only hit a few rocks.  We had to be extra careful near the bottom, and Dan even walked a section, but everyone made it out unscathed and had shit eating grins on their faces at the car, so I’d say it was a great day.  At the car, we loaded gear and hit the road, heading back down 58 to the valley, ready to do it again when the snow flies!

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October 8, 2017 – Mt Bachelor

After riding fresh snow in September, Dan and I were in search of October turns, and the weekend forecast was looking suspect.  Sunday appeared to hold promise of possible sun after rainy weather passed through the cascades, so we set our sights on Mt Bachelor in hopes of finding something to ski.  It was raining near Willamette Pass, but the sun was out as we drove along the Cascade Lakes Highway, and by the time we got to the mountain the weather was perfect.

Parking Lot View

There was a few inches of fresh in the parking lot, and we soon shouldered our packs and started up the hill.  We headed over to Old Skyliner to take a different approach up the mountain, and before too long were able to don skins and start climbing a bit more efficiently…

Booting up Old Skyliner

Looking back to Broken Top

Once on skins, we made good time and were soon at mid-mountain.  The rope tow patch looked good, and we headed up.  The snow wasn’t as fluffy as we were hoping, having been scoured by the stiff winds the night before.

Track up the Rope Tow Patch

Our thought was to ski the Cirque bowl patch, and soon we were in view of our objective.  Although there were quite a few rocks around, the snow for the most part looked pretty good.

Overlooking the Cirque Bowl

We continued up towards the bowl on skins, making our way under the steep headwall, where we had to switch to booting.  Climbing up the smooth slope, I caught a few photos of Dan in the alpine environment…


About 100 feet from the top we couldn’t make anymore progress due to a super icy layer under the fresh snow.  We’d left our crampons in the car, a decision we regretted, but not to worry, it was time to call it and rip some October turns….

Matt dropping in

October pow turns

The snow quality was better than either of us had thought it would be, and we cruised down about 600 feet or so to the bottom of the patch, enjoying the excellent turns.

Dan skiing the Cirque Bowl

At the bottom, it was time for a deserved break to eat some food and drink a beer we’d been packing around.  My choice for the day was a Laurelwood Free Range Red, which I snapped a few pictures of with Broken Top as a backdrop…

Red beer and Broken Top

After our break, we put in a boot pack for another lap.  It was 20 minutes or so up before we were ready to drop in for another run.  Looking back, I snapped a few pics of Dan climbing in the bowl, including the one below….

Climbing the Cirque Bowl

Run number 2 was equally as good as run number 1, and this time I headed over to a chute like feature that I wanted to rip while Dan set up below to snap a few photos.  The snow in this feature was excellent pow, as evidenced by the shot Dan took below…..

October pow

As before, we milked turns down to the bottom, and then headed up for our third and final lap before heading back down.  This time, I snapped some photos of Dan getting in on the action….

Dan getting the goods

After our third lap in the upper Cirque, we skied down to the normal patch below.  The turns were good on the way down, and a short hike brought us to the patch, which skied better than expected.  Once at the bottom of the patch, we climbed back up to drop into the our next line which would ultimately lead us back down to the car….

Skiing the patch

Three Sisters with and early October snow blanket

After our short climb, we found a line that led allowed us to milk turns all the way back down to the road.  Amazingly, neither of us hit any rocks as we worked our way down the super thin snowpack….

Looking back at our “line”

Dan at mid-mountain

After a short walk at mid-mountain, we were able to ski back down to within about 300 vertical feet of the lodge.  Making turns on 3-4 inches of snow isn’t necessarily easy (or smart for that matter), but it beats walking!  At the end of the snow, it was a short hike back to the truck just in time to catch the last rays of sun as we lounged in the parking lot drinking beers,  Not too shabby for October!

The parking lot scene

We made a quick stop in Crescent to get some chips so we could eat the fresh garden salsa I’d brought along on the drive down 58, and soon we were back in the valley, with another day in the books. Until next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Cold smoke in the Cirque Bowl


September 23, 2017 – Mt Washington, Northwest Bowl

A rare September snow storm blanketed the Central Oregon cascades with a couple feet of early season snow, and I was eager to get out for a tour and not miss out.  Thursday and Friday were the prime days, and being stuck at work was killing me, but Saturday would have to do.  I talked it over with Dan, who had skied at Bachelor on Wednesday and Thursday, and we decided to head to Mt. Washington to check out the conditions.  I met him at his house early on Saturday morning, and a couple hours later we were looking at our objective from Big Lake…

Mt Washington from Big Lake

After scouting the mountain from the lake, it looked like there was more than enough snow to make turns in the bowls, so we headed to the trailhead, shouldered packs and headed out.  The weather was chilly, and the hike down the PCT to the climbers trail went quickly.  Every once in awhile, the trail afforded a view of the mountain, and it appeared like the upper mountain was still shrouded in rime.

On the trail

By the time we reached the climbers trail, there was already a few inches of snow on the ground.  It didn’t take too long before we decided to switch to skins, which we had almost decided to leave at the car earlier in the morning.  The skinning proved to be difficult in the early season conditions, but was better than booting, especially as we worked our way higher and the snow depth increased to around 12 inches.

Approaching through the trees

Our approach route was less than ideal, having to work around quite a bit of deadfall and thick trees, but eventually we gained the ridge and got our first good views of the mountain…

Skinning out towards the bowls

There was more snow than we expected, both in the bowls and on the approach ridge.  The going was slow, and we had to take skis off a couple of times to work around the early season obstacles.  Finally, we reached a notch in the ridge that proved to be a suitable point to get into the Northwest Bowl.

Dan approaching via the ridge

Skinning into the NW bowl

Once into the bowl, we made good time skinning up to a high point around 7000 feet.  I was hoping to go all the way to the ridge and the usual drop in point for spring turns, but there just wasn’t quite enough snow for that.  Just below our high point, Dan grabbed the camera so I could climb up a bit further while he set up to snap a few photos.  A few minutes later, I was enjoying some of the finest September snow of my life….

September turns on Washington

Dan skiing below the pinnacle

The snow wasn’t perfect powder, but pretty damn fine, especially for September.  The turns were consistent, soft, and reminded me of that powder snow that falls in late April or early May.  A bit on the heavy side, but still nice.  We worked our way down the bowl, and I took a few shots of Dan looking out over the peaks to the west…

Skiing the northwest bowl

Halfway down the bowl, we made the call to continue down as low as the snow would let us, and then skin back up for a second lap.  The snow down low was superb, and Dan captured the below shots of me heading down…

September turns

Matt riding the lower bowl

At the bottom, we were all smiles as we looked back up and admired our tracks.  It only took a minute to transition back to skins, and we headed back up the bowl for one more run.

Our tracks in the bowl

For our second lap, we headed over to climbers left, which would set us up for a shorter traverse back to our exit route.  At our high point, we decided it was time to drink the beers we’d been lugging around all day, as well as get a bite to eat and sit back and relax for a few minutes.  The views didn’t disappoint….

A cold Crux Pilz

Once our beers were gone, we dropped in for our second lap in the bowl.  The snow was good, and we ripped turns down to our skin track below.  Looking out to the northwest, I captured a few shots of Dan skiing with Hoodoo, TFJ and Mt Jefferson in the background…

Big Lake and a few volcanoes

Once at the bottom, we put the skins back on the boards and headed back towards the ridge and our exit route.  The snow depth at the bottom of the bowl was pretty thin, but made for some cool photos as we toured through the boulder fields….

Touring through the boulder fields

The “ski” out proved to be fun, but challenging.  We were able to link turns down off the ridge through the trees on the thin snowpack by following our uptrack, which we lost several times.  Ultimately, we made our way down to the PCT, and we both agreed we wouldn’t forget that exit anytime soon.

PCT Junction

Hiking down the trail in the cool fall air reminded me of good times hunting in Idaho with my old man, and soon we were back at the car, enjoying a cold beer, fresh chips and salsa, and a view of the mountain basking in the evening sunshine…

Apres ski at the car

As we loaded the car and prepared to head for home, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate for having been able to experience powder in September on one of my favorite volcanoes in Oregon!

September 10, 2017 – Mt Hood, Southside

After enduring countless days of smoke filled air in one of Oregon’s worst fire season’s on record, I was happy to be heading to the mountains with Dan and Joe for some September turns.  A recent rain event had cleared the air, and we pulled into the climbers lot around 8:30 am.  The mountain looked good, as did the coverage…

Mt Hood from the climbers lot

The air was crisp, and it felt like Fall.  After going through the gear, we shouldered packs and headed up towards Timberline Lodge, opting to take Mile Canyon approach rather than the White River since the lifts had quit spinning the previous weekend…

Timberline Lodge

Looking out over cloudy seas

I was pleasantly surprised to see snow all the way down below the spot where the snowcats normally park, which meant turns all the way back in the Mile Canyon would be possible for the first time in September since 2014.  We started skinning at the first snow, and before long had made our way up to the Palmer Canyon…

Skinning up the Palmer canyon

At the top of the Palmer, we made the decision to head up the White River Snowfield, which was looking to be pretty smooth.  Dan and Joe had skied it a few weeks earlier, and it appeared the rain had smoothed it out quite a bit.  A short bit later, and we made it to Beer Rock at around 9300 feet.  Sitting there enjoying the views, we could look out to the south and see the Whitewater Fire still burning in the Mt Jefferson area.

Dan and Joe at Beer Rock

Looking down on the White River Glacier

Sitting at the rock, a few butterflies flew by, and reminded me of the epic California Tortoiseshell migration a month earlier on the Middle Sister.  Soon, after enjoying the views and eating a snack, we prepared to enjoy some of those September turns we’d come to get.  Before we set out, Joe snapped the below picture of me looking to the south…


To gain access to the good snow, we had to negotiate through a finger of snow that was less than stellar.  Once in though, the quality was excellent.  I rode down first and found a suitable spot to snap a few pictures of Dan and Joe enjoying some turns….

Dan and Joe enjoying the upper snowfield

Skiing alongside the crevasses on the White River

We worked our way down the snowfield, taking care not to ski too closely to the open crevasses, and eventually made our way down to just below the top of the Palmer.  A short carry brought us up to the top shack on the Palmer snowfield, where we took a quick break to enjoy a beer and snap a few pics….

One of my new favorites

Zoomed view of the Volcanoes from the top of the Palmer

The Palmer was in excellent shape, even though it hadn’t been groomed in a week since closing day on Labor Day.  This time, I dropped in while Joe snapped a few photos of me as I ripped the perfect September corn….


Partway down the snowfield, I grabbed the camera back and returned the favor, snapping some pics of Joe.  I had my telephoto lens on, and it works great for getting in close to the action.  The grin on Joe’s face says it all about how good the snow was….

Joe ripping the Palmer

We skied down to the mid-station, and it was so good we had to head back up for another lap.  20 minutes later, we were back on top enjoying the rest of our beer and readying for another round of turns.  As expected, the snow didn’t disappoint….

Dan skiing below the top shack

September turns on the Palmer

The exit ski out the Palmer Canyon was superb.  As Dan put it, it was probably one of the best September ski’s ever.  The snow was perfectly corned, and the coverage was excellent.

Turns in the Palmer Canyon

The Mile Canyon skied nicely as well.  There were a couple of “crux” spots, but overall, we found smooth but dirty snow all the way down to below the snowcats.

Dan skiing through the Mile “crux”

At the bottom, we were all stoked on the day, and looking forward to a cold beer and an assortment of the season’s offerings to grub on.  The hike down the trail went quickly, and soon we were back at the climbers lot.

Joe hiking out

Sitting there in the warm sun enjoying a cold beer, eating fresh salsa (both an onion salsa and regular garden salsa) along with pickled Chinook salmon caught on the Pacific, I must admit that life really doesn’t get much better…

Season’s offerings

As we loaded up the car and got ready to make the drive back to the southern valley, we all agreed, this September’s ski was one that would not soon be forgotten!